Signs of Canine Stroke
The chances of a stroke occurring in a dog is less common compared to humans, but the damage and condition is just as serious. There are three main forms of canine stroke and it is important for dog owners to be aware of the signs, causes and course of action to ensure the health of the pet.
Canine stroke occurs when an artery in the brain is blocked and cuts off oxygen to the area or when blood vessels in the brain rupture or hemorrhage. These conditions require immediate treatment. For reference, these stroke conditions are called cerebrovascular accidents (CVA) or transient ischemic attacks (TIA).
A third type canine stroke is fibrocartilaginous embolism (FCE). During FCE, a small piece of did material in the back breaks off and drifts into the spinal cord which causes a stroke. This happens easily when a dog is playing, jumping or running. It happens after a small piece of disc material inside the back breaks off and drifts into the spinal cord.
There are some obvious signs and some subtle. It's important for dog owners to be able to spot both. Sometimes, there are no signs or warnings prior to a stroke happening. It's critical to be able see these signs since problems can worsen in a short period of time if the stroke is left untreated.
These are the most common signs of a canine stroke:
- Walking in circles or turning the wrong way when called
- Head tilted to one side
- Difficulty with balance and standing
- Extreme lethargy
- Loss of control over bladder and bowels or vomiting
Worse symptoms can be loss of eyesight, heart arrhythmia or your dog collapsing.
What you should do
If your dog has had a stroke or if you suspect your dog had a stroke, first check the mouth for dark red gums and the inner eyelids to see if they're dark red. The darkened tissue may indicate a decrease in oxygen in the body. Take your dog to the vet immediately if you suspect your dog has suffered a stroke.
Strokes can be fatal, but for dogs, if the cause is found and treatment is given promptly, the dog has a greater chance for full recovery compared to humans. This is possible even in cases of suffering a severe stroke.
Mostly older dogs are more prone to suffering a stroke, but dogs that have suffered some of these injuries or conditions are more likely to suffer from strokes as well:
Making the diagnosis
- Head injury
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease
- Thyroid disease
- Cushing’s disease
- Brain tumors
- Poison and some parasites
- Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
If suspected to have suffered a stroke, the dog is examined with a CT scan or MRI. Half the cases of canine strokes may not have a specific cause. Although canine strokes are serious, most dogs will recover significantly if they receive quick veterinary intervention. The best thing that can be done for dog owners, is to know and recognize signs to provide your pet the immediate treatment and attention it will need. Knowing the factors that make dogs more prone to suffering strokes will also help decrease the response time when suspecting the dog has had or is having a stroke. Contact your vet immediately if you have spotted any signs.